Well-acted biopic loses the ring before the journey even begins.
I never read any of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Ring” novels, but I was a fan of the movies directed by Peter Jackson, including the 1977 Rankin/Bass animated film “The Hobbit.” They took risks, telling one story in three movies, including “The Hobbit” prequels, giving us iconic actors, and special effects, which amazed us at every level.
The biography “Tolkien,” directed by Dome Karukoski (in his first English entry), focuses on John Ronald Reuel Tolkien’s (Nicholas Hoult) life, featuring his childhood when he lost his parents, his fellowship with his fellow school writers, his love for his wife Edith Bratt (Lily Collins) and his fight in World War I.
I’ve seen the extended cut of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and they offered more elements than this biopic wanted to have. In fact, it doesn’t feel like walking to Mount Doom (the volcano in the movies).
The inspiration for his “Hobbit” literature-the language, the characters, and the adventures-come from his lessons, friends, and family. Even linguist Jospeh Wright (Derek Jacobi) becomes an influence for him, in the language section that is.
In Edith’s side of the story, she’s the free-spirited type, who hates the dreary music she has to perform for Mrs. Faulkner (Pam Ferris). She admires John’s narrative and fantasies, which lead to her inspiring one of his characters-Luthien Tinuviel.
But later, she feels her fairy tale with him is over, when they have to separate in order for him to go to Oxford, as suggested by his priest guardian (Colm Meaney).
The acting in “Tolkien” is exceptionally fine-sophisticated, patient, and kind-thanks to the chemistry between Hoult and Collins. They portray the real-life couple with their own consistence, and they’re charming from beginning to end.
The costumes in the movie are designed and stitched very well, capturing the time period and fashion. I just love gazing at the suits and dresses, and the actors who wear them.
And I especially admire the fantasy sequences, involving dragons on Tolkien’s WWI battlefield. Being released by Fox Searchlight Pictures, instead of Warner Bros./New Line Cinema, it really seems to care about the magic inside the movies and literature.
But the movie feels like a missed opportunity. The narrative and dialogue often gets confusing, and the story of his fellowship is all cut and paste. His fellow students are often muddled and underwritten, thus leaving me not care for them, the way I was moved by Hoult and Collins.
It also felt dreary for me, the same way Kenneth Branagh lagged in his William Shakespeare biopic “All is True.” Both these movies have such unique acting and faithfulness, but they never seem to imagine. I liked this more than the other, because of what it wants to accomplish, but it’s not enough for me to recommend.